Interview with Prof. Koen Augustyns, the New President of EFMC
By Gabriele Costantino
Effective January the 1st, 2015, the Executive Committee of the EFMC will change its composition, with new members substituting the leaving ones, and with new positions, such as the Secretary, the Treasurer and, of course, the President. The leaving members are Gabriele Costantino (Italy) and Hein Coolen (The Netherlands) who finished their term, the new members are Yves Auberson (Switzerland) and Antonello Mai (Italy). The position of Secretary will be taken by Jordi Gracia (Spain) while the new Treasurer will be Pascal George (France). The new President, elected during the Council Meeting of Berlin, in 2012, is Koen Augustyns, from University of Antwerp, Belgium. Koen is certainly not new to the EFMC, since he has already served in the EC for many years, first as a member and then as Secretary. Uli Stilz, President of EFMC in 2012-2014, will stay in the EC for two additional years as Past-President.
It is tradition that the new President presents himself and his programme for the presidency to the EFMC members by using our Newsletter.
Gabriele Costantino. Koen, the starting of a new presidency is a good occasion to take stock of the state of EFMC and of medicinal chemistry in general in Europe. What’s your vision for the next years?
Koen Augustyns. Gabriele, let me start by thanking you for this interview and for the opportunity to address a few words to the readers of MedChemWatch. In my opinion the European Federation for Medicinal Chemistry (EFMC) is a fantastic federation representing 25 societies in 23 countries throughout Europe. Since its start on September 13, 1972 (by the way exactly on the day I became 7) EFMC has served the medicinal chemistry community for many years in an excellent way. It is therefore both a big honour and a tremendous challenge to represent EFMC as the President for a period of three years starting January 2015. But with the help of a lot of people I will do my best to turn it into a success. First of all, I would like to thank Prof. Dr. Uli Stilz, now Past President of EFMC, for his vision and the energy and change that he brought into our federation. Thank you Uli for the collaboration so far, and I hope I can count on your personal support during the coming years. A special word of thanks also goes to Edmond Differding, Henk Timmerman and Gerhard Ecker who introduced and stimulated me into EFMC. Of course I may not forget Nele Coulier and Ly Differding who assisted me in an excellent way for 6 years during my term as EFMC Secretary.
As a President, it will be my task to guide all the teams of EFMC in the process of fulfilling its main objectives. We aim to advance the science of medicinal chemistry by promoting cooperation and networking, by providing training and mentoring, by rewarding scientific excellence, and by facilitating communication and influencing stakeholders. Obviously, during the course of history the medicinal chemistry landscape has drastically changed. Traditionally, medicinal chemistry was performed in major pharma and at universities in Europe and the USA, whereas during the last decade this has shifted also to biotechs, SME’s, spin-offs from universities, spin-outs of pharma and in public-private partnerships worldwide. One of the challenges of the next years will be to explore how EFMC can better serve this broader community.
GC. Can you anticipate your main commitments as President of the EFMC? What will be the continuities with the former presidencies, and what innovation you intend to bring up?
KA. In 2013 Uli Stilz initiated and stimulated a workshop in Frankfurt. During this workshop, council and executive committee members together with young scientists, discussed about the future of EFMC. As a President, it is extremely important for me to contribute to the needs and objectives of our members. During the coming years, I will guide and support the strategic and exploratory themes that were put forward. Especially, the influence of EFMC on EU science policy and the visibility and recognition of the important contributions of medicinal chemistry on society and human health will have my special attention. Too often, the general public but also members of the broader research community are ignorant of the fact that chemical compounds form the basis of the many wonderful drugs that improved human health so much during the last century. We should emphasize much more that it are medicinal chemists that invent and create new medicines. During my presidency EFMC will organise a workshop and press conferences, write position papers, make videoclips and use the website and social media to reach out this message to the rest of the world. Next to that, an important aspect of my job will of course be to continue to foster the great EFMC events we all know.
GC. EFMC gathers together more than 6,000 medicinal chemists from both academia and industry. European medicinal chemistry has the potential for being one of the world-leading drivers of the research in biochemical and health sciences. What are your personal and the EFMC’s commitments to create a real community of medicinal chemists in Europe?
KA. The EFMC symposia are the ideal events to meet colleagues from all over the world, to network and to learn about the latest developments in science. It should be our mission that all participants can go home inspired to innovate and contribute to the development of medicinal chemistry. In 2015, EFMC will co-organise three international meetings to encourage contacts and exchanges between medicinal chemists in Europe and around the world: The 5th edition of the Frontiers in Medicinal Chemistry Meeting is scheduled for September 14-16, 2015 and will be held in Antwerp, Belgium. The Frontiers meeting is organised on a biennial basis, as a collaboration between the ACS MediDivision and the EFMC, and for this year’s edition, the local organisers will be the Medicinal and Bioorganic Chemistry Division of the Royal Flemish Chemical Society (KVCV), the Division of Medicinal Chemistry of the Société Royale de Chimie (SRC) and the Section Medicinal Chemistry of the Royal Netherlands Chemical Society (KNCV). Following the spirit of this series, the meeting will bring together top quality speakers from the US and Europe, especially from Belgium and the Netherlands. Not only as EFMC President, but also as Co-chair of the Symposium, I would be happy to welcome you all in Antwerp in September 2015!
In connection with the Frontiers Meeting, EFMC will organise the 2nd EFMC Young Medicinal Chemist Symposium (EFMC-YMCS). As in Lisbon, we expect 120-150 mainly young participants at this one-day symposium. This symposium and the prizes for young medicinal chemists hopefully contribute to EFMC’s mission to advance the careers of young scientists. In November 2015, EFMC will organise the 6th EFMC International Symposium on Advances in Synthetic and Medicinal Chemistry (EFMC-ASMC 2015). Together with our colleagues from the Medicinal Chemistry Section of the Israel Chemical Society, we are looking forward to meet all of you in Tel Aviv with its vibrant biotech region.
Last weekend I participated in the first meeting of the International Organising Committee of EFMC-ISMC 2016 in Manchester. Manchester is an extremely attractive city with an excellent congress centre located right in the middle of the city. I am really looking forward to collaborate with all members of the local and international organising committee to make this symposium to an attractive event for the whole medchem community.
GC. One of the missions of EFMC is to promote aggregation and cultural exchange between the members. Can you briefly summarize which instruments the European medicinal chemists can use to get information about EFMC and its activities (besides this newsletter, of course)?
KA. Over the coming years we will continue to provide you with updates on EFMC activities through our monthly electronic newsletter, via the EFMC LinkedIN group, via Twitter and on our website www.efmc.info. It is my intention to further promote the use of social media to communicate with the young and also less young medicinal chemists. Furthermore, MedChemComm, the EFMC journal published in collaboration with RSC, is released monthly and contains scientific work of the highest quality in all fields of medicinal chemistry. I invite all readers to submit their high quality manuscripts to MedChemComm.
GC. Thank you very much and good luck for your presidency! Would you like to conclude by addressing a short message to all the readers of this newsletter?
KA. Let me close by wishing everyone all the best for a splendid 2015, both in their professional and personal life. I hope to meet all of you at the occasion of one or another EFMC event.
Biosketch Koen Augustyns
Koen Augustyns obtained his Master and PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the KU Leuven, Belgium in 1988 and 1992 respectively. After postdoctoral stays at the University of Antwerp, Belgium and the University of Tübingen, Germany he was appointed as Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Antwerp, Belgium. His research resulted in more than 130 papers and 12 patents in the field of medicinal chemistry, mostly focused on the design and development of enzyme inhibitors in the fields of oncology and infectious diseases. So far, he supervised 20 PhD students and he is currently heading an international research group of 25 PhD students and postdoctoral scientists.
He was chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences from 2007-2012 and is currently vice-dean of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences at the University of Antwerp. Since 2002, he is the President of the Medicinal and Bioorganic Chemistry Division of the Royal Flemish Chemical Society (KVCV) in Belgium and he serves the European Federation for Medicinal Chemistry (EFMC) as Secretary (2009-2013), President-Elect (2014) and President (2015-2017). He was a member of several international organising committees of medicinal chemistry symposia, and was co-chair of the EFMC International Symposium on Medicinal Chemistry in 2010 in Brussels.
Univ. of Parma, IT
Gazi Univ., TR
Lucija Peterlin Masic
Univ. of Ljubljana, SLO
Univ. of Geneve, CH
Univ. Halle-Wittenberg, DE
Pfizer, Sandwich, UK
Koen Augustyns President
Uli Stilz Past President
Jordi Grącia Secretary
Pascal George Treasurer
Yves P. Auberson Member
Phil Jones Member
Antonello Mai Member